Saturday, 14 March 2015

Three men on the Wear..........March 13th.
  For various reasons several gadgies are not able to walk today so the team is reduced to Dave, John h and me. The weather forecast, as given by a relatively new meteorologist on local TV promises a morning of low cloud coming in from the west to be driven back by a breeze from Putin land in the afternoon, which could be quite sunny. She also mentioned snow but thought that would be really high in the Pennines.
Today's walk is from Cowshill quite high in Weardale, back to Stanhope by means of the Weardale Way. It requires either two cars or catching a bus from Stanhope which is what we chose to do. The service from Stanhope to Cowshill is every two hours and we opted for the 10 am bus which required an early start. To get to Stanhope from base take the A69, turn south on the A68 and turn right at the signpost for Edmondbyers and Stanhope. The road across the moors had a covering of slushy snow but was passable, unlike a few minor roads in the area. There is an all day car park in Stanhope by the Durham Information Centre. They should put out a few benches to help us ageing gadgies boot up.
This week's car park has a nearby info centre and cafe, but we didn't bother breakfasting.
 The bus stop going west is close to the centre, outside the vets as you would expect. The journey to Cowshill takes about 25 minutes.
The walk: A map is advisable and like so many trips it is on two sheets. Mostly on OS Ol31 North Pennines and partly on OS Explorer 307 Consett and Derwent Reservoir. The bus stop outside the Cowshill Hotel is at NY855406.
                                                        Starting point
Across the road from the hotel is a bridge over the Wear, the footpath for today's expedition starts here. A waterfall beneath the bridge was very active, brownish, peat tinged water pouring over.
                          The Wear at Cowshill, the bridge to cross in the background.
  From this point the path crosses fields on the south of the river to the first  village on the route, Wearhead.   

Watch out for signs There is a shortage in some areas.
                                                                                                                                                At this point the trail is shared with the Mineral Valleys walk which takes walkers on a trip round the old mining areas of the dale. Upper Weardale produced lead, as did several other valleys in the area.At West dene the path crosses the river and remains on the north side as far as the point we turn north, Westgate. Clearly visible across the river between  West Dene and West Gate are the villages of Ireshopeburn and St. John's Chapel. On the north hillside above Ireshopeburn is New House, This late 17th?early 18th century mansion had a library and reading room built by a local MP for the benefit of local miners.
                                      The New House above Ireshopeburn.
                                         The Wear near Ireshopeburn.
  Just east of St. John's Chapel the way crosses to the south side of the river, fortunately there is a footbridge as the stepping stones looked a bit dodgy.
                                    A view from the bridge.
At Westgate, once the western limit of the Bishop of Durham's Hunting forest, we called a Herbie Spot. Reduced numbers meant, sadly, there was no cake from Mrs A but we did have Rintons Gingers, Cadburys Brunch Bars and Almond slices in little pouches that are very difficult to open.
It being quite early in the day we decided to follow the Weardale Way north to Rookhope. Crossing the river we turned left and almost immediately right up the road signed Rookhope 5 miles. A short distance up the road a signpost on the right pointed the way behind the church to a farm. The way here is a bit short of signs, the path actually goes through a small housing estate before crossing several fields to a farm track. There are stiles across the walls, they get more difficult with age, especially when farmers add little traps like wire and bits of timber. Turning left and heading north through a farmyard (now on OS Explorer 307) 
We all had maps but one of them showed a different route for the Weardale Way from this point. We followed the more northerly one which led across moorland covered with Lauder Grass, slushy snow and mud. Furthermore visibility was low and eventually we became unsure of our position.       
A distant John and Dave amid the Lauder Grass.
  Thank heaven for GPS which was able to give us a grid reference with a high degree of accuracy, enabling us to find the track, now on top of what appeared to be an old mineral line. We followed it, roughly north east and slightly downhill until we almost reached Smailsburn farm. Here we turned right across fields and down to a road. We turned left and then almost immediately right across a footbridge uphill to a minor road. Turning right we followed the road past Hill Top, Green Head and down to Green Foot caravan park where we turned left and walked back into Stanhope. Although the weather had been poor all day it did not rain apart from a very light drizzle as we started. There was no wind and the temperature remained above freezing, making this a good walk out. But do it on a dry day in summer! 
On the way home we called in at The Punch Bowl in Edmondbyers which had beers from Wylam Brewery and Thwaites Wainwright. I had coffee, as driver.

The Matrix MMXV J
                                                           steps                                          miles
Higear                                              29951                                             13.6
LIDL3D                                           37201                                             17.5!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dave's 3D                                        32381                                              14.9
Dave's USB                                     31800                                               14.6
OUTDOORS GPS                                                                                   14.6